By ALEXIS RUFENER
There is a difference between being raised by parents and being raised by a government agency.
Patty Almondolea knows this all too well. She is a community education specialist at Mahoning County Children’s Services.
“It is our responsibility to raise these children, and we need to raise them right,” she said.
While that is a top goal, it is not the primary goal for Children’s Services agencies.
“The main goal of foster care is for children to be reunified with their family,” said Almendolea.
Courtney Booze of Darlington, Pa., disagrees with this. She is a student at Penn State University’s Beaver campus. She’s on the volleyball team, runs a children’s ministry at her church and works part-time.
She was put into foster care at two weeks. Since then, she’s lived with 36 different foster families in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
“I was born addicted to three different types of drugs and I was born two months early,” Booze said. “A lot of the time they try to push putting (foster children) back with their families. They kept me in the system so my mom could try to prove everyone wrong. It’s not always the best that the child goes back with the family. If a child is crying out that they don’t want to go home, there’s probably a reason behind it.
“My mom – due to her, I’ve been in and out of foster care due to the choices that she made. She has literally turned my world upside down.”
Booze is the youngest of five children, all of whom were adopted by a family in Maryland. That family wanted to adopt her, too.
“Because I was young, (Children’s Services) decided to give my mom a second chance after she got out of prison,” she said.
Booze was sent to live with her mother four times, only to be returned to foster care. She’s one of the lucky ones. The family she lived with since July 1, 2011, officially adopted her in August.
“I would like to be a voice for other children. I would hate to have another child go through what I’ve gone through,” she said.
“I practically raised myself, but I raised myself by seeing someone I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be the kid who proved everyone wrong. I have proved everyone wrong, but a lot of it was proving myself right.”
Nicolette Pizzuto, Brittany Wenner and Jessica Mowchan contributed to this report.
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